McDonald makes adjustments in 75-63 triumph over Girard

Tribune Chronicle / Joe Simon McDonald’s Josh Celli (10) dribbles up court while being defended by Girard’s Mark Waid, center, and Austin O’Hara, left.

McDONALD — There are apparently several different levels to the press defense run by the McDonald boys basketball team.

In laymen’s terms, there is the super-duper press, the super press and the press. The super-duper press involves playing defense from the moment the opposition touches the ball, and it’s the one most often used by a McDonald team that has enjoyed years of success deploying that strategy.

Yet that scheme wasn’t working real well against a Girard team well-suited to break through it. So, the Blue Devils dropped back into the super press in the second half, and the results worked just how they hoped.

McDonald turned a one-point halftime lead into a 75-63 victory by easing up its in-your-face defense in a nonconference clash with the neighboring Indians.

“We stopped pressing them-pressing them,” said McDonald coach Jeff Rasile in explaining how the Blue Devils backed off their press. “We told our kids to stay 6 feet off them, and (Girard) really struggled to score when we didn’t allow them to get into the paint. They’re a good basketball team, but they struggle to shoot the ball from the outside a little bit, so we just said, ‘Drop back and contain.’ “

Tribune Chronicle / Joe Simon Girard’s David Blackmon, left, looks to pass while being defended by McDonald’s Riko Rodriguez (23) on Tuesday.

That wasn’t the only major change in the second half.

McDonald big man Braedon Poole, a 6-foot-5 senior with an array of skills, returned after some early foul trouble. His impact was felt on several levels as he scored 18 of his 22 points in the final two quarters and was active around the rim, grabbing 10 rebounds and blocking three shots.

“I just had to be energized,” said Poole of his mindset when he returned. “The first half I just felt like I wasn’t there. The second half I just came out with intensity and went after it.”

He was especially big in a decisive third quarter. He single-handily outscored the Indians (1-1) with nine points. Girard scored six in the quarter, and McDonald (2-0) held a 50-39 lead when the fourth quarter started.

“If he’s not the best player in the area, he’s one of the best players,” Girard coach Craig Hannon said of Poole, “because he does everything so well for them. He attacks the offensive glass. He gets hands on the basketball. He finishes around the rim. He, to me, is their key in the things he does with the way they play. He’s just a great basketball player.”

He’s not the only one McDonald has either.

Sophomore guard Zach Rasile (Jeff’s son) helped keep the Blue Devils afloat when Poole was out in the first half, scoring 21 of his game-high 24. Matt Beedle was consistent all game as well, adding 13 points, and Josh Celli scored 11.

“Coach told me, ‘Hey, you know you’ve gotta pick it up, carry the load,’ and I just tried to do that for the team,” Zach Rasile said. “When other guys get involved, it forces the double teams to come off me a little bit. They’ve got to go guard them, and that opens it up for me.”

Girard’s speedy guards didn’t have much trouble weaving through the vaunted press defense early on, and when they broke through, their quickness led to lay-ups. David Blackmon was the catalyst in the first half, with 16 of his 22 points.

When the Blue Devils slipped back in their press and cut off the lane to the hoop, Girard faced more difficult shots and drives to the hoop. Despite McDonald daring them to shoot, the Indians only attempted 11 3-pointers (making three), and Hannon said they avoided the 3-ball because other opportunities were there.

“With the style (McDonald is) playing, you want to take the lay-up when you can have it,” he said. “When you’re in that transition, you don’t want to shoot a long one. Your percentages (on 3-pointers) are lower because you’re running up and down the floor, and you’re tired. We have good shooters, it’s just in this game, you have to attack the rim.”

Girard trailed by as much as 15 in the fourth quarter, but Austin Claussell hit a 3 and was fouled with 3:33 remaining. Claussell, who scored 15 in the game, made the free throw to cut the deficit to eight. However, a few untimely turnovers on inbounds passes resulted in lay-ups for McDonald, and a 3 by Riko Rodriguez with 2:10 left put the Blue Devils up 12 and essentially sealed the victory.

McDonald is off for a week before traveling to Waterloo. Girard travels to Campbell on Friday.